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Functional Foods for Perky Pets

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Consumers are becoming more and more concerned about their pet’s health. Functional foods are foods that provide additional health benefits beyond basic nutrition (1). Functional foods have been promoted to prevent disease and promote overall health. There is a huge offering for functional foods for humans including: oat cereals, yogurts with prebiotic, nutritional beverages, specialty oils, high omega eggs, whole grain breads, and the list goes on. Consumers often care about their pet’s health as much as their own. The pet food aisle has an array of products targeted for healthy animals.

Here is a list of common functional food ingredients added to pet foods to promote additional health.


Normally, high levels of Clostridium perfringes is found in the microbiota of animals. However, Clostridium perfringes can produce an enterotoxin that potentially cause sinfections such as diarrhea and abdominal cramps (2). The presence of prebiotics, such as oligofructose and inulin, in animal’s diet decreases levels of the bacteria Clostridium perfringes (3). Additionally, oligofructose and inulin increase levels of the healthy bacteria such as Bifidobacteria  (4). Overall, prebiotics help promote healthy gut bacteria for your pet. A healthy gut bacterium helps promote a strong immune system.  Consumers can find prebiotic foods for their pets in dog food, cat food, digestive enzymes, and prebiotic supplements. 

Omega 3 fatty acidsperky-pets-supp-image-400x500.jpg

Omega 3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory effects. DHA and EPA are two omega 3 fatty acids that are essential in the diet. Omega 3 fatty acids are promoted in pets for healthier skin, increased immunity, and prevention of arthritis (5).

Glucosamine and Chondroitin

Often, pet foods are promoted for the addition of glucosamine and chondroitin. Glucosamine is an amino sugar that support cartilage and joints. Chondroitin is a glycosaminoglycan that destroys enzymes that damage the bones (6). If your pet has joint pain such as osteoarthritis, they might benefit from foods with added glucosamine and chondroitin.

Fruits and Vegetables

Although some pets like cats and dogs are known for being carnivores, fruits and vegetables are still a critical part of their diet. Fruits and vegetables in pet food provides a variety of vitamins and minerals. Additionally, fruits and vegetables give pet food a higher antioxidant and fiber content (7). Typical fruits and vegetables found in pet foods include apples, berries, carrots broccoli, and celery.

Dietary Fiber

Dietary fiber is a functional food ingredient found in the cell walls in plants and grains. Although fiber is not an essential nutrient for pets, there are many benefits. Some benefits include increase satiety, decrease incidence of diabetes, and prevents constipation (8). Dietary fiber is available in dog foods as bran, pectin, rice hulls, and soybean hulls.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, biotin, iron, potassium, and zinc are added to pet foods for added benefits. For example, vitamin A supports eye health, reproduction, and growth. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant to protect against lipid oxidation. Interestingly, vitamin C is not commonly found in dog foods because unlike humans, dogs can synthesize their own vitamin C. Although vitamins and minerals are required in small amounts in the body of your pet, these vitamins and minerals are still essential and important in the diet. Look for the statement “with added vitamins and minerals” on your animal’s food to provide them with extra vitamins and minerals (9).

These functional food ingredients can provide a great added health benefit for your pet! Next time your shopping for your pet, look for these ingredients to give your pet added health benefits.

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1. Di Cerbo, A., Morales-Medina, J. C., Palmieri, B., Pezzuto, F., Cocco, R., Flores, G., & Iannitti, T. (2017). Functional foods in pet nutrition: Focus on dogs and cats. Research in Veterinary Science, 112, 161–166.

2. (n.d.). Clostridium perfringens. Retrieved February 23, 2018, from

3. Flickinger, E. A., Schreijen, E. M. W. C., Patil, A. R., Hussein, H. S., Grieshop, C. M., Merchen, N. R., & Fahey, G. C. (2003). Nutrient digestibilities, microbial populations, and protein catabolites as affected by fructan supplementation of dog diets. Journal of Animal Science, 81(8), 2008–2018.

4. Hussein, H. S., Flickinger, E. A., & Fahey, G. C. (1999). Petfood Applications of Inulin and Oligofructose. The Journal of Nutrition, 129(7), 1454S – 1456S.

5. Autoimmune Diseases in Pets | Pet Health | Articles | Magazine. (n.d.). Retrieved February 23, 2018, from

6. Bhathal, A., Spryszak, M., Louizos, C., & Frankel, G. (2017). Glucosamine and chondroitin use in canines for osteoarthritis: A review. Open Veterinary Journal, 7(1), 36–49.

7. Fruits and Vegetables in Pet Food | Petnet. (n.d.). Retrieved February 24, 2018, from

8. de Godoy, M. R. C., Kerr, K. R., & Fahey, G. C. (2013). Alternative Dietary Fiber Sources in Companion Animal Nutrition. Nutrients, 5(8), 3099–3117.

9. Vitamins and Food For Your Pet [Internet]. [cited 2018 Feb 26]. Available from:


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